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3 4 Man Coverage Defense

By: Zach Davis

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I

who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I
now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of
God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
- Galatians 2:20

The reason I am writing this eBook is because I want to share my
limited football / life knowledge with as many people as possible. I
welcome feedback about this eBook and please send an email to if you want to engage in meaningful
conversation about the eBook. There are no new ideas in football,
just repackaged ones and this eBook is my own repackaging.
I have known I wanted to be a coach since I was in high school. I
love the mental aspect of the game and the amount of preparation it
takes to be a great football player and coach. I used to think all it took
to be a great high school football coach was to know your scheme and
be able to teach the appropriate techniques, but I was wrong!
Being a great coach requires pouring yourself into the lives of
young men and showing them what it means to be a man. I am a
Christian, so it is my belief that you cannot be a successful coach
without the gospel. In my own flesh, I can never love my players the
way they need to be loved. But, if I walk in the spirit, I can love my
players with the love of Jesus, and that is what they desperately need!
There are a lot of coaches who know the game, but they do not show
their players what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In 100
years we will all be dead and the only thing that will matter is the

relationship we had with the Father and the relationships we formed

with others.
Thank you for reading this eBook and may the Lord bless you and
keep you!

There are many different versions of the 3-4 defense and all of
them have been used successfully over the years. This eBook will
detail a version of the 3-4 that uses man coverage and an attacking
front. It is my belief that moving the defensive line wreaks havoc on an
offensive line. I played offensive line in high school and college, and
the teams that gave me the most trouble were ones that moved the
front on a consistent basis.
There are two parts of an offense that a defense must defeat in
order to win a football game. The first is the offensive line. An
attacking front causes confusion along the offensive line and leads to
negative plays and turnovers. The second part a defense must defeat
is the quarterback. An attacking front, along with man coverage in the
secondary, makes the quarterback speed up his reads and forces him
into bad throws and turnovers. The 3 4 defense gives you the

flexibility to drop 8 into coverage or blitz 6, and since you have two
safeties, it is easy to roll the coverage.
This version of the 3-4 is simple, sound and easy to install. The
bulk of your time will be spent perfecting the different techniques of
each position, and that is what makes coaching fun!

This eBook will be organized according to the different coverages
used with this defensive scheme. I think that makes the most sense
because when I read an eBook about football I usually skip all of the
introductory content and go straight to the Xs and Os. From here on
out, we will focus on how we use our schemes to stop the different
offenses we see at the high school level.
Cover 1
It is my belief that cover 1 is the greatest coverage in the history
of football. It allows you to play man coverage on all eligible receivers
and still take away the middle of the field. Throwing the football to the

middle of the field is the easiest throw, so I want to take it away and
force the offense to make a more difficult throw.
Cover 1 is also great against the run game because you can load
the box and use your free safety in the run game. I have recently
become a proponent of soft cover 1 where the corners, outside
linebackers, and safeties play at least 6 yards off of their man with
outside leverage, so they can react to the run game and they can
break on any ball throw underneath. The outside linebackers must be
able to play man coverage on a slot receiver / TE, and still be able to
play the run. They must be the best players on your defense because
they will be asked to do the most as far as technique and assignments.
On the next page is a diagram depicting how to align in cover 1 versus
a 2x2 formation:

We are blitzing the Rush (R) in this call and the Sam (S) is in man
coverage on #2. The Rush is a quarterback player versus the option
and squeezes all pullers. The Dog (D) covers #2 to the side of the blitz
and the Corners (C) have #1. The Sam, Dog and Corners are pitch
players versus option. The Stinger ($) is a between the hashes player
(high school hashes) and he plays quarterback to pitch versus option.
We could also blitz the Sam and the Stinger would cover #2 and the
Dog would become your hash to hash player.
We do not assign the Mike and Will a gap to fill, we tell them to
read the guard to the near back and attack the play with the
appropriate technique. If they see a drive block, they shock and lock
the linemen, locate the football, and then they use a rip move to

disengage. If they get a down block, they scrape to the next available
gap unless the B gap opens up. If they see a reach block, they will
scrape to the next open gap. If they see a pull, they scrape in the
direction of the pull and locate the ball carrier and fill inside out. If they
see a down block and an isolation block by the fullback, they will spill
the football to the safeties / outside linebackers who are folding. They
are dive players versus the option and they two way the tailback in
The Buck (B) reduces to a three technique and he is responsible
for spilling all pullers and tackling the dive versus the option. The Nose
(N) slants to a 2i and is responsible for spilling all pullers and tackling
the dive versus option. The End (E) plays a tight 5 technique and is
now a quarterback player who squeezes all pullers.
Versus trips you can roll the Stinger down on #3 or you
could flip the Dog over. An example of this is below:

If there is a nub TE, tackle or a wing, the corner will flip over and
cover #2. This is pictured below:

Versus bunch we will make a combo call which is illustrated


Lastly, versus traditional I the Mike will take the first back out to the
TE side and the Will plays low hole. This is illustrated below:

Cover 1 gives you all the benefits of man coverage and the
ability to take away the throw to the middle of the field. Cover 1 is the
best coverage in football, but you need a change up so you can
keep the offense guessing. Our change up is soft cover 0. Cover 0
allows us to blitz 5 or 6 and still be safe, simple and sound in the
Cover 0
The primary pressure we use with cover 0 is blitzing both outside
linebackers as force blitzers. They must set the edge of the defense
and be contain rushers. This concept is illustrated on the next page:

The ends pinch and tackle the dive / spill all pullers and
the nose two gaps the center
The coverage behind this blitz is cover 0, but we feel safe
running this blitz because we are usually in off man coverage with
inside leverage (6 yards off), and we get good pressure with this blitz.
The Sam and Rush are quarterback players versus the option, the Mike
and Will are dive players, and the secondary are pitch players. This
coverage concept is illustrated below:

Versus trips the Dog would flip over and cover #3 strong. We can
also press the corner on #1 to the trips side. This concept is illustrated

Versus Trips Open we will lock the corner on #1 and Banjo #2

and #3. This concept is illustrated below:

Lastly, versus traditional I the Mike will take the first back out
to the TE side and the Will plays low hole. This is illustrated below:

We can also blitz both of the inside linebackers and the outside
linebackers take on the ILBs coverage responsibility. These two
concepts are illustrated below:

We can also blitz the Will as well as both of the OLBs to create
our 6 man pressure. This concept is illustrated below:

Versus jet motion we bump the coverage instead of running with

the receiver to maintain leverage on the jet sweep and slant / shoot
concept. This concept is illustrated on the next page:

Versus empty we treat #3 strong as the back in traditional

empty (3x2) and #4 strong as the back versus 4x1. The Mike
would align on #3 or #4 strong and play him man to man.

As you can see, our cover 0 package is not complicated,

but it is multiple enough to get pressure on the quarterback and
confuse the blocking schemes. Couple cover 1 with cover 0 and
you have a defense that can put pressure on an opposing offense
all night long!!
Final Thoughts
The key to playing great defense is to keep your package
simple enough so your players can play without thinking. When
defensive players have to think rather than react, they play slow
and are not aggressive. I have never heard a coach say that he
wished his defensive package was more complex. Good coaches
are constantly trying to find ways to simplify the game so their
players can play fast and be physical. It is not the team with the
biggest playbook that wins, but the team that can EXECUTE its
scheme at a high level. I recently wrote a blog post on (my blog site) about execution:
When I watch film of other teams or watch football on the weekends, I notice
a common factor of successful teams.. EXECUTION. There are many defensive and
offensive schemes in the game of football and people have won a lot of games with
different schemes. The scheme is not important, but the EXECUTION of the scheme is
of paramount importance. It does not matter how many different schemes a coach can
draw up on a board or put in a PowerPoint, what matters is the ability of his players
to execute their assignments on every play. Now, you need to have some versatility in

your package, but NEVER sacrifice EXECUTION for a larger playbook.

Steven R. Covey says, "You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have
the courage to say no to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger
'yes' burning inside."

If more football coaches listened to that statement, more people would have
successful seasons. In order to be successful, you have to coach what you know. It is
better to be excellent at a few things than be a jack of all trades and a master of
none. Your players will always know less than you, so you must be an expert on your
scheme. If you are not an expert; do some research, talk to other coaches, go to
clinics, so you can become an expert on your scheme. If you are going to demand that
your players EXECUTE their job to perfection, you better know your scheme inside and
out, so you can prepare them for the different situations they will face.

I pray that you will find this eBook useful and you will use
some of the ideas as you go through your coaching career.
Please feel free to contact me at any time! My email is and my Twitter handle is
@zachdavis24. May the Lord bless you as you journey through
your coaching career.